Hep C drug delay confirmed

Government drug-buying agency Pharmac has confirmed any move to make new hepatitis C drugs available will not occur until next year.

About 43% of hepatitis C patients are unable to take the drugs at present funded by Pharmac.

A decision announced by Health Minister David Clark at a July summit that Pharmac would begin public consultation on introducing two new ''pangenotypic'' medicines to help those patients was widely welcomed.

In August, Pharmac extended the consultation period and last week an agency spokesman said it needed more time to assess feedback.

Yesterday, Pharmac issued a statement confirming the two medicines it is considering would not be listed for use this year.

''At this stage, we still do not have a firm timeline for when a decision will be made, or the date at which a listing could occur.''

Dunedin hepatitis C campaigner Hazel Heal, who founded a ''buyers' club'' two years ago to help patients access affordable generic pangenotypic drugs, said the announcement reinforced her view that Pharmac's lengthy decision-making process was cruel.

''It will now be February at the earliest ... but at least it is clear that people who need generics should get on with it and buy their own.''

An estimated 20,000 people have hepatitis C, a severe liver disease. There are about 1000 new cases a year.

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